Early in 2017, I wrote a piece about how politicians lie, and one example I gave for the version of lying termed ‘misleading or dissembling’ was: “Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, which were falling under the Gillard government’s Carbon tax, are rising again under the Emissions Reduction Fund, with an increase in the first half of 2016 of 0.8%. Josh Frydenberg, then Environment Minister said that: ‘These figures show that Australia’s emissions per capita and emissions per unit of GDP are now at their lowest level in 27 years.’ The per capita rate or per units GDP rate have nothing to do with the reductions required by the Paris agreement.”1
In a shambolic interview yesterday, Environment Minister Melissa Price repeated this same lie by referring to emissions per capita. Unfortunately, interviewer Sabra Lane did not pick her up on it2, but given the incompetence displayed by Price, it is not really surprising; Lane could only do so much.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison uses the same lie. He has boasted that “We’ve got emissions per capita at the lowest level in 28 years”. The atmosphere is a finite volume; it is not increasing in size, least of all at the same rate as our population. It is impacted not by emissions at a per capita rate, but the total level of carbon dioxide emissions3. Promulgating this lie is almost as disgraceful as saying that the per capita domestic violence rate has declined from 8.3% in 2005 to 5.4% in 2016, so we don’t need to worry about it any more.
Journalists need to be either better informed about their topic before attempting to interview anyone, or to pursue lies with more gusto. If they do not, then politicians like Price, Frydenberg and Morrison will continue to ‘feed the chooks’, and our democracy will be in even more trouble than it is now.